Amazon couriers taking home as little as £2 an hour speed to hit ‘impossible’ targets
- Credit: Charlotte Bond/PA WIRE
Drivers delivering Amazon parcels from Ipswich's depot have told how they are struggling to reach "impossible" targets of 200-plus stops per day while taking home as little as £2 per hour.
Workers employed by three different firms sub-contracted by Amazon to deliver packages told this newspaper of "extortionate" van hire costs which can set drivers back as much as £225 a week with VAT.
Former DJ Wayne Bartle, 36, started working for Deliverwize at the Ipswich depot last summer and left in January.
The pay was around £120 per day, according to his wage slip. However, employees were also asked to pay £195 per week to hire a van, and to contribute towards fuel and damage costs.
In one week, when he picked up three-and-a-half shifts lasting nine hours, Mr Bartle's total pay was £480.
Taking away £195 van hire, £185 of damages and £52 of fuel, he was left with just £48 - with Deliverwize topping up VAT to a total take-home of £63.10.
That is the equivalent of just over £2 an hour for the three-and-a-half shifts worked, which Mr Bartle said typically lasted nine hours but frequently went over that. He claims damage to vehicles, for minor chips and paintwork, was typical for vans using dual carriageways and motorways.
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Deliverwize said its payment structure is set up to ensure drivers earn a competitive day rate, adding that they clearly and regularly communicate the availability of routes.
Amazon said it is committed to making sure people contracted by independent delivery providers are fairly compensated and treated with respect.
They added that drivers have a number of ways to raise issues and share comments about any problems, including escalating any challenges through its 24/7 hotline, which they said works quickly to investigate concerns.
Mr Bartle also claimed drivers frequently speed to meet targets of delivering around 170 parcels per day: “You would literally put your foot down everywhere you went and then we were moaned at for speeding, but we're given a route we can’t do in nine hours.
“To start with we would be taking between 80 and 120 parcels a day, but that grew to 200 parcels and 170 stops in nine hours."
Bosses at Deliverwize said they are working hard with clients to improve route scheduling and to ensure drivers have a positive experience on the road while maintaining road safety.
Another worker, who wished to remain anonymous, joined another Amazon contractor called Parcel Connect UK in October.
When he found out about van hire costing up to £225 per week he decided to buy his own which he says has left him with good pay.
The current employee adds that he really enjoys the work and finds it physically challenging.
However, he said picklists can typically include between 200-300 parcels with up to 250 stops per day, claiming seatbelts are commonly not worn as a result.
"If everyone stuck by what they were taught in the Amazon training, they would never, ever finish," he added.
“I know for a fact you can’t keep your seatbelt on every single time because you're in and out, you’re constantly skipping breaks because you’ve got to deliver all these parcels, the vans are absolutely choc-a-block."
Parcel Connect said it works hard to ensure drivers feel valued, adding that they earn a daily rate of £125 and can choose to use their own vehicle, rent from them, or a third-party provider.
It added that route availability is communicated in advance so drivers can pick shifts, and said driver welfare and safety remain key to its operation.
Another Ipswich driver, who did not want to be named, works for Fast Despatch Logistics (FDL).
He claims it is "impossible" to meet targets and take breaks despite the Amazon app prompting you to, adding that it often takes an hour to get to your main delivery area, and when you get there, you could have more than 200 stops to complete.
FDL was contacted for comment.
While one of the current employees we spoke to said he is personally enjoying the work and just "gets on with it", he questioned Amazon's use of external agencies to hire drivers.
"You’re constantly at the mercy of Amazon," he said.
"We have no power because Amazon can just go and find someone else. There’s no job security."
The Amazon spokesman added that their efforts to support workers employed by independent delivery providers are reflected by the positive feedback received from drivers every day.
There was a huge drive to recruit new workers by Amazon in the weeks leading up to Christmas, according to the findings of a Bureau of Investigative Journalism investigation.
Analysis by the Bureau reveals that in Suffolk, almost 4,000 job adverts were marketing roles at the Ipswich depot in the run-up to the festive season.
Nigel Mackay, of the law firm Leigh Day, told the Bureau the use of agencies as middle-men allows Amazon to keep itself at “arms-length” from the workers.
Frances Grady of the TUC added: “Amazon workers have played a key role during this pandemic. But many are treated like disposable labour while the company registers enormous profits off the back of their hard work. That’s not right."
Amazon told the Bureau that the firm created 10,000 new permanent roles in 2020, including for people impacted by the pandemic, and said its agency terms are specific that they do not engage workers in zero-hours contracts. However, drivers spoken to by this newspaper were on zero-hours contracts, in breach of this policy.
The findings come as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos overtook billionaire Elon Musk on Tuesday as the world's richest person.